The Rare Noctilucent Cloud - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

The Rare Noctilucent Cloud

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A slivery blue cloud spotted near the poles that appears to give off a glowing light was first noticed in 1885.  These rare clouds are known as noctilucent clouds, and are usually seen between the 40th and 50th parallel.  The clouds occur at altitudes of 50 miles above the Earth's surface, allowing them to reflect light from the sun back down to the Earth.  There are three things needed to have the noctilucent clouds form: very cold temperatures, water vapor, and meteoric dust.  The dust offers an area that the water vapor can attach to until the very cold temperatures cause the water to turn to ice.  In 2007 NASA launched a mission called Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM, to observe the clouds.  With information from that mission and others, scientists have noticed that the presence of noctilucent clouds has in areas between 40° and 50°north latitude.  Research is still being done to see if the increase in noctilucent cloud frequency has anything to the atmosphere warming or cooling. 


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